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The Broken Heart. Will It Heal Before It Shatters?

Updated on September 10, 2016
Henry Bemis profile image

Adam Stier is a writer and editor that resides in Portland, OR. He is an established columnist and contributor to websites and publications.

Never allow somebody to be your priority while allowing yourself to be their option.

— Mark Twain

The saddest thing about love, Joe, is that not only love cannot last forever, but, even the heartbreak is soon forgotten.

— William Faulkner

The Foreboding Reflective Response

It's always a blow. When it happens we are seldom prepared even when we know it's coming. Just about everyone has suffered through it and either come out a wiser individual or forever lost in the proverbial Sisyphus lifestyle. Life in black and white. All because of the inevitable. All because what we knew was coming came and no matter the preparation, we are never ready.

Why? What causes us to feel this pain? Is it physical or emotional? Most likely a combo of both. But, what causes it? Why do we become so attached that it drives us to horrible repercussions of the effect? There are several schools of thought on this and the answers range from logical to metaphysical and from primal response to intelligent design and everything in between.

How many can we experience? How many times until it shatters and cannot be repaired? Can that happen or is it more the individual giving up and giving in? Questions abound and it's better to look for answers than wallow in the abysmal feeling of it all. Let's try and sort it out, maybe, find a way to at the very least ease the burden, if even by a fraction. Even Sisyphus would appreciate that.

Sisyphus - Routine Eternity

In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was a king that because of his craftiness and deceitfulness he was doomed to spend the afterlife pushing an immense boulder up a steep hill, only for the stone to roll back down once at the top. Sisyphus would repeat the process day in and day out, for all time.

The First Time Teaches Us Nothing

We can usually find where things go wrong in retrospect. Which is of no use and only leads down the Shoulda , Coulda, Woulda path that is really a loop. However, what if we could foresee or at least forecast with accuracy the oncoming breakage? What if the body gave warning signs, or the current situation could be analyzed and formulated to probability without actually keeping journals, logs, graphs and other impractical tasks to track it? We do. It's in all of us. It's called experience. The caveat is that history is doomed to repeat itself if we learned nothing from it.

The Questions

Some can remember being in school and having their first logical crush, not the nonsensical ones from primary school, more during the final four years of general education, when we could understand why we like someone, or at least think we can. For most it does not bode well and usually leads to the first break. The first is the worse, albeit, I would argue that it can be much worse, it's relative. However it comes, it eventually does. Well, not for everyone, indeed there are plenty of high school sweethearts that have stayed together all these years. First loves, Last loves. they may have only an inkling of the effects of the broken heart.

For the majority of people we are doomed to suffer through it at least three to four times in our lives. That's the least, for a lot it's many more than that. There are multifarious reasons for the polar shift beyond love or relationship reasons. Loss of a child or friend, rejection, being mislead by a trusted friend, being shunned by those you cared for. There are many, many reasons that can lead to the ultimate personal tragedy. Again, why? Even news that is sudden still is processed by the brain, why would it trigger such a useless feeling? Is it only to strengthen our caring for others, to cherish what we have while we have it? Maybe a cellular reaction to the idea that other cells have ceased function, it pains us because we are all one and experince each others deaths or loss in a hive community way?

Heartbreak (Noun)

noun heartbreak, plural noun: heartbreaks

Overwhelming distress.

Distress (Noun)

Noun: distress

Extreme anxiety, sorrow , or pain.

The Term: How Did It Become Defined?

Heartbreak is a metaphor in technical terms. It's cross-cultural and has most likely existed in language for at least 3,000 years. In fact, the first biblical reference that refers to heartbreak was printed circa 1015 AD, nevertheless, there are mentions of it in a poem from an even older time, Mesopotamia.

The poem was written by Rudaki, a well known Persian poet, he is actually regarded as the first literary genius of "Modern Persia" and he lived from 858 to 941 AD. There is a particular poem where Rudaki appears to define, or at least transcribe the first metaphor, heartbreak.

Look at the clouds, how they cry like a grieving man.

Thunder moans like a lover with a broken heart.

— Rudaki, Persian Poet (858-941 BC)

Suffice it to say, while most don't agree that was the first time, it is the most well known since maybe that was the first time it found its way to print, or a print that survived the decades anyway. No matter, this is where the term comes from, it's a metaphor itself, a term to compound many feeling descriptive words into one all and conclusive statement. Instead of I am sad, lonely, feeling depressed and not going to eat for awhile, one can simply say I Have A Broken Heart.

The Trouble Of Caring

So, we can assume that the term is as old as the first two people to experience it. Antiquated for sure, consequently there is nothing to replace the term with. Besides, maybe the term is not the concern, when we fight a disease we don't attack its name or the scientist that discovered it. We go after the illness with or without an identification for the sake of eradicating it and preserving what is really most dear to us; Life. Why should emotions, especially ones that cripple us mentally and physically, control us uninhibited with free range of our actions and thoughts? If we can overcome viruses, biological contagions, and even cancer eventually, why are we no closer to controlling our emotions?

There are those who claim they have at least learned to suppress emotions, most notably those who follow Buddhism aspire for Enlightenment, which is the rise above this earthly plain and human sufferings and becoming light and knowledge. While in order to be enlightened one must master the emotions, those working on that practice suppression. Ergo, when a monk stubs his toe and smiles he is most likely screaming obscenities and cursing the table for the occurrence in his mind. Perception and image may mask it, but there are always reactions induced by emotions. It is said that the deeper we bury them the stronger the roots become and eventually blossom into bitterness and jaded perspectives that can isolate the sufferer from others and help to cultivate the wasteful energy, not to mention wasted life.

Ergo, if burying or repressing emotions is ill advised there must be another solution. Perhaps it's in psychology. The mental effects of heart break, can the medical world bring them under our thumb? Can physicians, pharmacologists, and ridged treatment programs condition us to accept it quickly if need be at all?

It is strange how often a heart must be broken before the years make it wise.

— Sarah Teasdale

Heart Break: The Mental Effects

When one's heart breaks among the first feelings are emotional ones, almost instantaneously they raze our world and burn what's left to ash. Dark forebodings intercept logic and in our agnst can accomplish amazingly self destructive actions that can lead down dark roads even to self-annihilation. That is strong emotional response. To commit an act against one's self that induces the very event that we work so hard to avoid daily is something to take note of. That's an awesome power, one that should be observed and somehow resolved quickly with attention akin to that of other deadly conditions like cancer or A.I.D.S. However, we are in our own worlds. When it's something that's not currently affecting us, we forget all too easy. A memory of a fleeting moment, were you remember little except a figment of it. Consequently, heart break causes serious problems both mentally and physically, let's look at just what a broken heart can do to our senses.

The Beaches Sands All Been Washed In Black - Stages of Heartbreak

1. Shock and Denial - The initial reaction from the initial blow. The sudden coming of an abrupt drop off in one's reality. An overwhelming feeling of loss and uncontrollable misery. Shutting down starts to move in.

2. Depression - The first stages of drawing in on one's self cause reflection and unbearable loneliness due to absence of presence. Where there were two, two toothbrushes, two coffee cups, or two indents on the sofa, there is now one. Routine has collapsed and all hope of return is beginning to fade. Symptoms of depression include fatigue, loss of appetite, apathy, weight gain, extreme sadness and even suicidal tendencies. Any condition that can inspire those ideas should be considered fatal or at least a possibly fatal clause. Medications and therapy are effective and impressive seeing as not fifty years ago we were treating such illnesses with frontal lobe lobotomies.

3. Pain - This has it's own section so for now, understand that there is physical pain associated with heart break. Symptoms like, stiff and aching muscles, ulcers, and even a syndrome that can be fatal is induced with extreme cases. When we hurt others or break their hearts we are inflicting pain on them that can actually kill them. Should it be illegal to break someone's heart? Could it even be helped?

4. Guilt - Another self-defeating symptom that comes on is guilt, no matter if you are or not. Those that know they are the responsible party for the cause of the pain, their guilt can spiral out of control even to the brink of madness. However, those who create it in their own minds are generally more susceptible to other more final solutions as well.

Most things break, including hearts. The lessons of life amount not to wisdom but to scar tissue and callus.

— Wallace Stegner

Pablo Neruda , Heartbreak Poetry

“Well, now
If little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you
Little by little
If suddenly you forget me
Do not look for me
For I shall already have forgotten you

If you think it long and mad the wind of banners that passes through my life
And you decide to leave me at the shore of the heart where I have roots
That on that day, at that hour, I shall lift my arms
And my roots will set off to seek another land”

If your heart is broken make art with the pieces.

— Shane Koyczan

Mental Effects Cont.

5. Anger - This stage is where most come to a head. An eruption of bottled up emotions that had been buried deep during the depression. At once the flash flood can come on, snapping at people, road rage, getting frustrated over simple issues, and even physical assault and abuse. This is a crossroads for the broken hearted. It can go one of two ways, well three; Imprisonment, alienated, or dead. Jail from assaults or domestic abuse, alienated since those in your life will only tolerate it so long, and dead from a rage best left alone against a stranger that proved angrier perhaps? There's plenty of ways to end up dead when angry.

4. Barganing - A pathetic attempt at offering services or changes to return things to a previous state. If only they come back then the wounded will stop smoking or be more charitable, anything to have the one they lost back. Usually not just back, but, an actual return to a previous state. Like a computer being rebooted, time reset to a predestined moment in the past. If only, if only. This stage is more desperation than belief. The broken are most likely aware that it is futile however try anyway and anything they can.

3. Hopelessness - When every strategy fails, because that's what these stages are most likely, a strategy. Why not? Your body is reacting to your subconscious commands. Shock to give it time to adjust, depression to process it, anger while amplified, is generally at one's self, unable to direct it properly, it's administered to unwitting friends, family and even strangers. All of these are purges in a way, perhaps. The process of trying to alter an entanglement bond with another? Well, that's for another time, the fact is when all else fails; there is no hope. With that gone there are now two most likely conclusions to reach; Acceptance or Withdrawal.

Hearts can break. Yes, hearts can break. Sometimes I think it would be better if we died when they did, but we don't.

— Stephen King, Hearts in Atlantis

The Fork In The Road - Conclusion of Mental Effects

At this point two ways are before the beleaguered individual. One way takes you down the path of sowing the seeds of life, burying the dead horse, and coming back to life. Acceptance. To conclude that it's over, there is no going back and for what it's worth, knowledge and wisdom gained. Coming out stronger, changed and humbled. Then in time this person returns to the circulation and begins the the trail and error experiment all over again, usually to find themselves back at step one and there are others who, through perseverance, finally come together with another that compliments them, adds to their personality, and fits together as a team almost on metaphysical plains in communication and understanding. They learned the truth, as far as one can tell, it's a process, for some it's short, others it's a lifetime. Nevertheless, probability favors us all in time.

The ones who refuse to accept are the sadist cases of all. Unable to come to terms with the suffering of loss believed to be irreplaceable, they can no longer accept reality as the mass populous sees it. They become withdrawn into a world all their own, where things are alright and they are all that matters. They could be the bitter old man yelling at speeding teenagers, maybe the bank teller that is always so friendly when really he can't stand anybody, or even a friend of family member, smile for show. Lost, some for good, in a world of selfishness, self-importance, and sometimes complete absence of empathy or any emotions at all. Becoming nihilistic, believing in nothing and caring for none it either. Death breathing.

The ultimate obscenity is not caring, not feeling --- not doing what you feel! Just drawing back and drawing in, becoming narcissistic.

— Rod Serling

Broken Heart Syndrome

It may feel like the end of the world, however, it's usually not unless the one inflicted makes it so. There is a condition known as Broken Heart Syndrome, a medically recognized condition that is brought on by suffering from a tragic loss or event to a point of pitiful despair that by causing uncontrolled stress hormones being released can lead to heart attack and stroke. Might want to consider that if breaking hearts is a game of yours. You could kill someone.

To bad it can't stay like that all the time.

Nothing gold can stay.

— The Outsiders

Heart Break : The Physical Effects

While it may seem hard to believe heartbreak and other mental illnesses, if that's what heartbreak is, do indeed cause physical pain that is not psychosomatic. The chemical imbalance in the suffer's brain is causing a myriad of problems, mostly doctors believe, to the release of hormones and other chemicals in mass quantities. Therefore, troubles abound and it can lead to symptoms like, dull aching muscles, stomach issues like ulcers, dermatology issues, weight loss or gain, headaches and migraines, even heart attacks and strokes.

When something like this has that much ability, that much control over you it's almost advisable to avoid any situation that can induce heartbreak. Which is another reason that some choose the easy route, that off withdrawal. By blocking it out they also block the opportunity for heartbreak to find hold. Consequently, they also block out Love.

What Does It All Mean? Author's Conclusion

There are no easy answers when it comes to the matters of the heart. Believed to simply be a pump, it turns out this powerful muscle is fully equipped to make long and short term memories, communicates to the brain more than the brain to it, and even produces an electromagnetic field that emulates from us and perhaps influences the energy around us. Maybe. I don't know.

The woes of a broken heart of been around for time immemorial and will continue with certainty until the last two sentient beings collapse on the barren wastelands. It's as natural as air, we love because we are programmed that way. Most likely had a survival reason at one point, perhaps to entice not only breeding thus continuation of life, but also to live in a pack or group to aid in survival.

How about a selfish reason? Why not it's more our inability to accept losing just about anything with grace and humble pride. No, most can be enraged over something as simple as missing a turn signal light because the car in front is to slow. Others by what someone said about them in passing. People have been killed over loss. It's a blow to the persona and ego thereof that causes many, especially Alpha types, to go into full on panic mode. So, maybe it's the finality of losing that drives us to the brink?

The answer is a reoccurring theme with me, the answer is Complacency. There is an alarming number of loveless and sexless marriages out there. In the United Kingdom, 1 in 4 couples no longer loved their partner, if they ever did. Even a decline in marriage is beginning to roll downhill, if there's less marriage there's less companionship. Over time will we become individuals to the absolute? The narcissistic society incarnate? What would happen to us as a species if we stopped loving and gave up in fear of heartache, loss, death? Would we slowly go extinct over thousands of years until, down to the last two, one breaks the other's heart by leaving them all alone. The sole specimen of a cowardly race of beings, that chose safety over feelings. Which, ironically enough, was what killed a once powerful, yet juvenile race, that had potential beyond anything they actually did.

Maybe a pill? Perhaps, soon a chemist or pharmaceutical engineer will stumble upon the formula that will end detrimental emotions once and for all. Giving us complete control for the first time. In a way, that's already happening. Pills like Xanax are just a digestible temporary lobotomy. They are a sedative that reduces reaction times and cognitive abilities. Other pills as well, like Gabapentin, reduce reaction time and give the user a foggy mind, forgets words that use to come easy or where they put their keys. Living like a zombie. I would suggest reading A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley if you want an idea of how that can turn out. Again, this would create apathy and emotions would soon be a thing of the past. A beaming smile, a perfect lawn, a good citizen from now on.

Heartbreak could be lived with if it weren't accompanied by the regret.

— Laura Kasischke, author

The Unfortunate Truth ; Author's Closing Opinion cont.

The truth is, there is no cure, there is no fix all, and there is no avoiding it. At least once in your life you will experience heartbreak. If once only count yourself fortunate. For the majority they will struggle with the painful madness it induces, pick up the pieces and go back to the starting line. Why? Because being alone for the majority is an unbearable place to be. That's why senior citizens who live alone will gab your ear off at the grocery store while standing in line. It's why that talkative guy at the bar won't take the hint you're not interested in molded plastics. Loneliness is a brute force on its own and can also lead individuals down a dark and tumultuous path. I would wager that being lonesome is the driving force behind those futile obscene pictures men will send to women, emailing a potential match over and over. It's the final desperate acts of a lonely person on the edge of the cliff. Teetering on the cusp of tumbling over, falling into the darkened ravine. Why? Why is it so imperative to be with someone?

I feel it boils down to a deep seated primal response to survival. That when first our spieces walked the earth, they would form tight groups, families maybe, that would hunt, gather, cook, bathe, and sleep together. When one sensed trouble they alerted the group. The larger the group the better coverage. Survival was paramount and skills like this were not an option. It would have been all but impossible for a solitary early human to survive on their own. Our attachments to those we love and our family, our group, our pack, our protectors, is nothing more than a survival instinct. The reason heartbreak occurs with love lost and death is because we have lost a member of a team, those we came to cherish because they helped keep us safe, cooked or hunted food for us, told good stories, or in someway provided something to us. Let's face it, would you love someone who didn't do something for you? Not a service necessarily, even the way that individual makes you feel, or the way they tell the stupidest jokes but in the funniest way. Then when it comes apart of the routine, we just come to expect it. A fixture that will forever be represented.

That, regrettably, is not accurate. The truth is we lose all we love eventually and sometimes all at once. Which may be better than multiple times over a span of many years. To accept the fact that anything you think you have is already gone is a first step to being able to take separation, loss, and death in a better light. People drift apart, they fall out of love, maybe even they are still lost and looking for who they even are. This happens. It's part of life. We are not perfect, we cannot control these emotions, suppress or hide, sure, but there is no control. No mastering of them. Either, over time, we evolve them out of the programming. For now and the foreseeable future to come, there is no evidence that emotional control without pharmaceuticals will happen. Sorry, Buddhists, I lean more towards hallucinations from lack of sleep and hunger is the induction for so called enlightenment. Besides if they have figured it out they are not forthcoming with the formula and instead reserve themselves in cryptic metaphors and parables.

It's just the way it is, I'm afraid. All you can hope to do is your best each time it happens. I am not saying learning to let go is easy, however, I am cursed with an analytical mind and it came as natural to me as the main reason for heartbreak - Loss.

You will lose it. You will live without it. You should never want it again. You should keep trying.

What else can you do? Besides, letting the dark in. Becoming closed and unhappy. Drawing the curtains and extinguishing the lights. Sinking into yourself and finding after time that doesn't matter either. This is generally the path of those that cannot accept these natural occurrences of loss. They cannot understand there is nothing special about them. Nothing granting them immunity from the universal pain of the heart breaking.

This is why one should make it a top priority to practice letting go in every instance. Start with small things that you thought you couldn't live without and move on from there. As for myself, I gave up most of my material possessions, not for Buddha, God or any other mythical being, for myself. I have experienced reduced stress, save more money, and it's a real breeze on moving day. I own a bed, dresser, couch, table, clothes, and my laptop. Will any of this heal your broken heart? No, of course not, if it's already broken the only cure is time and acceptance, the embrace of change. As tragic as it is, when you survive and indeed you shall, remember every moment of it, record it in a journal, use a voice recorder, dictate it to a friend. Then read it over and over until you have firmly planted it in your mind. Maybe then, maybe then you will know how to avoid it again.

The more times you experience something the wiser you become. In turn, the better the choices you make and then finally, a partner, perhaps. After all, anything worth having you usually have to work for. The harder the work the greater the reward. Remember also to look beyond the materialistic and see what is important. Gravity wins eventually, energy never dies.

The heart was made to be broken.

— Oscar Wilde

Science Of Heartbreak by ASAP Science

If You or Somebody You Know

Heartbreak and depression is no joke, yo. It can lead to temporary insanity that leads to self harm or the harm of others. While depression is an illness, heartbreak can be a disease. A crippling one that can drag people to a breaking point. Especially in an adolescent mind. If you or someone you know is thinking dark forebodings about ending your life, please call Call 1-800-273-8255. They can help you or someone you know seek guidance, professional medical help and support 24/7.

Killing yourself over someone is never the answer and it proves nothing. Rising up and becoming something better from it, that will always get noticed. - Henry Bemis



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